Darina Allen: Fish in Beer Batter with Chips and Tartare Sauce

WE are just back from another action-packed school tour. 

On every 12- week certificate course we take the students on a fact-finding field trip to stimulate ideas on how they might use their hard-earned cooking skills to earn their living in a fun and creative way. 

Food is the main driver of the Irish economy at present where there are a myriad of options to add value to basic raw materials.

We started shortly after 8am, everyone was in high spirits. 

First we visited Shanagarry Smokehouse where Bill Casey told us about how he decided to start a smokehouse when he was made redundant in the early ’80s. 

His smoked salmon is sold not just in the local area but also to several top chefs around the country and overseas.

Next we visited Philip Dennhardt’s Saturday Pizza factory ingeniously converted from a disused shipping container. 

An inspirational project which made many students realise that thinking creatively one can get into business and comply with the regulations without huge overheads.

Then we headed for Mahon Point Farmers Markets. It was already buzzing when we arrived at 10am, with more than 50 stalls. 

Annie Murphy’s chickens were roasting to perfection on a spit, beside her Simon Mould was turning out irresistible pizza. 

As ever the O’Driscoll brothers from West Cork had a long queue for their freshly caught fish. Maurice Gilbert from Ballyhoura was doling out tastes of his apple juice combos. 

Close by Marcus Hodder tells me his new salted caramel affrogato ice cream is a big hit.

Silvia and Olga from La Cocina have an irresistible display of Spanish treats. Think chocolate cake pops, lollipops, goat’s milk, raw food, home baking, cured meats, free range pork, organic fruit and vegetables.

Now, since my last visit Rachel McCormack is making a variety of beef and chicken broths, Pho and pad thai that’s causing a stir. 

This market continues to surprise and delight and the originals like Arbutus breads are still innovative and tempt us with their new creations.

Then it was on to Fermoy Cheese where Frank and Gudrun Shinnick and their team of international apprentices make a whole range of delectable farmhouse cheeses from the milk of their Friesian herd.

After a picnic we headed to visit Willie Drohan, who produces Comeragh Mountain lamb on his farm not far from the spectacular Mahon Falls. 

Lamb graze on deer grass, wild sorrel, tormentil and on other wild herbs on the commonage.

Next destination was Nude Food in Dungarvan. Here we were met by Louise Clark and Lucy Whelan. 

Louise lead us through the restaurant into her garden behind where broad beans, courgettes and a myriad of fresh herbs were flourishing. 

Our last stop of a brilliantly stimulating and enjoyable day was Dungarvan Brewery. 

Claire Dalton and Cormac O’Dwyer showed us around explaining and simplified the brewing process, the ingredients needed and the bottling system. 

His sister, wife of Tom Dalton, the other brewer in the business, organised a tasting of the Dungarvan beers, all with local names, Helvick Gold Blond ale, Copper Coast, Mine Head, and I particularly enjoyed the Black Rock stout.

Traditional bottled conditioned beers are the USP of the Dungarvan brewing company which gives the craft beer a unique flavour.

Fish in Beer Batter with Chips and Tartare Sauce

Dungarvan Brewery can be contacted on 058-24000

Fish and chips became famous because they can be utterly delicious. 

The fish needs to be spanking fresh, the batter crisp, the potatoes a good variety and most importantly the oil needs to be good quality. 

In Spain and Greece olive oil is frequently used, but sunflower or arachide can be excellent also.

Serves 8

8 very fresh fillets of Irish cod, haddock, plaice, or lemon sole

Beer Batter

250g (9oz) self-raising flour

good pinch of salt

110ml (4fl oz) beer

175-225ml (6 — 8fl ozs) cold water


8-16 well-scrubbed unpeeled potatoes


1 lemon

Accompaniment Tartare Sauce

2 hard-boiled egg yolks

2 raw egg yolks, preferably free range

¼ tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

300ml (10fl oz) of sunflower or arachide oil plus 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil

1 tsp chopped capers

1 tsp chopped gherkins

2 tsp chopped chives or 2 teaspoons chopped spring onions (scallions)

2 tsp chopped parsley

Chopped white of the 2 hard-boiled eggs

Salt and freshly ground pepper

First make the batter:

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and gradually whisk in the beer and water.

Cut the potatoes into chips (5mm/¼-inch approximately — frite’s size), basically any size you fancy (remember the bigger they are the longer they take to cook. 

Jumbo’s need to be blanched at 160C/320F first and finished at 190C/375F).

Heat the oil in the deep-fryer to 180C/350F, add in the chips. Make sure they are absolutely dry (don’t cook too many together). Cook for a few minutes until they are just soft. Drain.

Dip the fish fillets in batter, allow excess to drip off, lower gently into the oil, shaking the basket at the same time. Cook until crisp and golden, drain on kitchen paper. 

Increase the heat to 190C/375F. Put the chips back in and cook for a minute or two until really crisp. Drain on kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt.

Serve the fish and chips immediately, either on a plate or in a cornet of newsprint. Serve with tartare sauce.

For the tartare sauce: Sieve the hardboiled egg yolks into a bowl, add the raw egg yolks, mustard and one tablespoon of wine vinegar. 

Mix well and whisk in the oil drop by drop, increasing the volume as the mixture thickens. 

When all the oil has been absorbed, add the other ingredients — capers, gherkins, chives or spring onions and parsley. 

Then roughly chop the hardboiled egg white and fold in gently, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add a little more vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary.

Shanagarry Smoked Wild Irish Salmon with Arjard and Pickled Red Onions

Wild Irish salmon is a now a rare treat, as for the last couple of years we have managed to get a small number from fishermen on the Blackwater river. 

We treasure each one and eat some fresh, cure and smoke some ourselves or give them to Bill Casey, our local smoker, to smoke for us. 

We hot- and cold-smoke the salmon and teach the students both methods of preserving. For this recipe we use cold-smoked salmon, but flakes of the hot-smoked variety would also be delicious.

Serves 4

175–225g (6–8oz) cold-smoked wild Irish salmon, cut into 1cm (½ inch) cubes

For the Pickled Red Onions

225ml (8fl oz) white wine vinegar

110g (4oz) granulated sugar

pinch of salt

3 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick, broken

1 dried red chilli

450g (1lb) red onions, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandolin

For the Arjard (cucumber salad)

2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthways

1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced into rings

1 green chilli, deseeded and sliced into rings

4 tbsp sugar

6 tbsp water

6 tbsp malt vinegar

½ tsp salt

1 cucumber, quartered lengthways and thinly sliced

To Serve

Chervil sprigs and wild garlic or chive blossom in season

Freshly ground black pepper

To make the pickled onions, put the vinegar, sugar, salt and spices in a heavy-bottomed pan and bring to the boil. 

Put in one-third of the sliced onions and simmer for 2–3 minutes or until they turn pink and wilt. 

Lift out the cooked onions with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a 350g (12oz) sterilised jam jar with a non-reactive lid. 

Repeat with the rest of the onions, cooking them in two batches. 

Top up the jar with the hot vinegar, put on the lid and set aside to cool overnight. Once cold, store in the fridge.

To make the Arjard, put all the ingredients except the cucumber in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. 

Bring to the boil and simmer for 3–5 minutes. Set aside to cool. 

Once cold, pour the marinade over the slices of cucumber and set aside to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

To serve, arrange the cubes of salmon on a plate, add some Arjard and some pickled red onion and scatter over a few sprigs of chervil, wild garlic or chive flowers. Finish with some freshly ground black pepper over the top.

Ballyhoura Apple and Custard Tart

Serves 10-12


225g (8oz) plain flour

Pinch of salt

175g (6oz) butter

1 dstsp icing sugar

A little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind


2-3 golden delicious apples

300ml (10fl oz) cream

2 large or 3 small eggs

2 tbsp castor sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

4-6 tbsp apricot glaze (see recipe)

Apricot Glaze

350g (12 oz) apricot jam

juice of ¼ lemon

2 tbsp water


1 x 12 inch (30.5cm) tart tin or 2 x 7 inch (18cm) tart tins

First make the shortcrust pastry: Sieve the flour, salt and icing sugar into a large bowl. 

Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and then rub in with your fingertips. 

Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt, the finished pastry may be tough. 

When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.

Whisk the egg or egg yolk and add some water. 

Using a fork to stir, add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. 

Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, shorter crust.

Flatten into a round, cover the pastry with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for an hour. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.

Line a tart tin (or tins) with a removable base and chill for 10 minutes. 

Line with paper and fill with dried beans and bake blind in a moderate oven 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. 

Remove the paper and beans, paint the tart with a little egg wash and return to the oven for three or four minutes. 

Allow to cool, then paint the base with apricot glaze.

Peel the apples, quarter, core and cut into even slices about one-eight inch thick. 

Arrange one at a time as you slice to form a circle inside the tart, the slices should slightly overlap on the inside, fill the centre likewise. 

Whisk the eggs well, with the sugar and vanilla extract, add the cream. 

Strain this mixture over the apples and bake at 180C/350F/gas mark 4, for 35 minutes. 

When the custard is set and the apples are fully cooked, brush generously with apricot glaze and serve warm with a bowl of whipped cream.

Apricot glaze:

The apricot glaze here is essential for flavour not just for appearance. 

In a small stainless steel saucepan, melt the apricot jam with 1 — 2 tablespoons of juice or water. 

Push the hot jam through a nylon sieve and store in a sterilised airtight jar. Melt and stir the glaze before use of necessary.


Sushi Made Simple: Join our 12-week certificate students and allow Shermin Mustafa to demystify this jewel of Japanese cuisine. 

While so many of us love eating sushi, making it for the first time can be intimidating particularly as it’s common knowledge that sushi chefs train for years to master the knife skills and presentation needed to create world-class sushi.

This course takes the mystery and stress out of making sushi, Shermin will start by explaining the ingredients, basic equipment and techniques required, giving you the confidence to serve it to guests at home or in a restaurant. 

During this half-day course she will show you how to make at least eight types of sushi as well as sashimi. Students will have the opportunity to taste all the dishes prepared during the demonstration. 

Wednesday, July 15, at the Ballymaloe Cookery School 9.30am-2pm. Phone 021 464 6785 or www.cookingisfun.ie  for more information.

The cake-making craze continues unabated. If you are really into spectacular results Decobake has five shops around Ireland. They also have a wonderful website with a good delivery service. 

All you need for cake baking and decorating from edible gels and paste, dust and glitter, sugar craft, novelty cake tins and much, much more. Check out www.decobake.com 

Shanagarry OOOBY little summer market has started again. Every Sunday morning the group sell their seasonal produce, preserves and home baking on the wall outside Shanagarry Church. 

A brilliant idea that could be replicated throughout the country. Contact Mary Griffin on 087 617 5985 or email oldroadpainter@msn.com  for the details.

East Cork Slow Food Event: Camilla Plum from her organic Danish Fuglebjerggaard Farm will give a short cookery demonstration at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on ‘Danish Family Cooking’, on July 8, at 7pm. Telephone 021 464 6785 for the details. www.fuglebjerggaard.dk/english 


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